Kitchen Table Chat with Vijaya Bodach, author of BOUND

Good morning, and welcome! I'm thrilled to be getting back into more regular blogging as the school year starts up again, and what better way to begin than with an interview with my friend Vijaya, author of the heartbreaking and bold young adult novel, BOUND. Here's the dust jacket description of the story:

Seventeen-year-old Rebecca Joshi, an adopted girl from India, burn survivor, and primary caretaker of her intellectually disabled sister, Joy, has one dream—to be a physician. Her traditional Indian father relies upon Rebecca to care for Joy while he buries himself in work to drown his grief over his wife’s death. Leaving home is the only way Rebecca can envision reaching her goal. She helps Joy develop greater independence, and is devastated when Joy becomes pregnant. Rebecca tussles—with her father and with herself—over who is responsible for Joy and her baby. When Rebecca discovers the truth of what happened the day she was burned, she struggles to hold onto her dream while wrestling with questions of life, love, and responsibility.

I was honored to have read this story as a draft and am so excited to be able to recommend it to all of you now. Vijaya is an excellent writer, a wonderful teacher, and a dear friend. I hope you enjoy getting to know her a little better today!


Hello, Vijaya, and thanks so much for joining me at my virtual kitchen table. In honor of your characters, I had to sit down with a cup of Earl Grey tea. (There are several cups of tea in BOUND, which already gives you readers a hint of how obviously good it is. I've found that the number of cups of tea is proportionate to the quality of the story. Just ask Jane Austen. ;) Have some "with" me? And perhaps, while we're on the topic of food, we could talk a little bit of how your own background influenced your characters and infused Indian American culture into your story? As I read, I felt like I was slipping into the home of new friends, getting to know so much about their world and culture. I also seriously craved curries at least every 20 pages, so my local Indian restaurant has you to thank for all the business I'll be giving them!

Thanks for that lovely introduction and for hosting me, Faith. I'm having a cup of Earl Grey as well with kittens sleeping peacefully as I write. It warms my heart so much to know that you *know* these story people who've lived in my heart and head for years (and still do) and I'm giggling over your cravings for Indian food. Someday I will cook for you! 

I grew up in India as well as the US (emigrated here when I was 14 the second time) and given this is a family story, I drew upon the sensibilities of my own family because those were what I knew intimately. I enjoyed writing some of my mother's wisdom and my father's ire. But as you can imagine, the characters take on a life of their own. I also included the unique conflicts arising between immigrant parents and their children born into wealth and privilege in the US. 

The story itself came to me with Rebecca asking a lot of questions. Her voice was so clear. We had recently been received into the Catholic Church and I was struggling with many of the questions she was asking so I let her talk. Her character is inspired by my cousin, Aradhana, who was adopted as an infant and then severely burned as a small child in India. I have never forgotten what a miracle she is. Her older sister, Sangeeta, born profoundly deaf and with heart problems, is another miracle. Here's more of her story that I wrote for Odyssey (Mar. 2006): Sangeeta's Silent World: But I digress.

I didn't want another adult character; I wanted a childlike one, so I decided to make Joy intellectually disabled. I don't really like this term because these children are differently abled, but in our society, they aren't given the same respect. My observations lead me to believe that some are very, very close to God and incapable of sinning even. They can be so pure and honest, reflecting God's love beautifully. Of course, they are challenging to raise, but the parents I've spoken to all agree what a great gift they are from God. Joy was my favorite character to write and her name says it all.

Some word art inspired by BOUND

I love this! I think there's so much focus in today's world on what we can "do" or "accomplish" that the lives of those less productive are seen as less valuable. The funny thing is, that's carried over to an unhealthy way of seeing even a normally-abled person's life. And I am so personally guilty! It took me years to give in to just nursing and cuddling my babies as a good use of my time--the desire to multitask and be productive was almost compulsive.

Your character Rebecca goes through a lot of this as well, I think, even though she's a high schooler and not a mother. Her desire to attend a medical school program away from her home and former/new responsibilities reminds me of the fight for balance I experience on at least a weekly basis as I juggle my vocations of motherhood and writing. Did your own experiences of motherhood and life as a scientist and as a writer come into play as you developed that theme?

I'm totally guilty of this too--of thinking that my worth comes from doing. You are so blessed that you discovered the value of being and just cuddling and kissing your babies. Time spent together is never wasted even if later all you have to eat is toast. My motherly instincts kicked in when I got pregnant. I couldn't bear the thought of my children being raised by others, so I quit working. Actually I was in-between jobs so simply canceled all my interviews. I reasoned that if my children were going to have bad habits, they might as well have mine And they do and it drives me crazy, but I don't regret a moment staying at home with the children even though I've had to give up some dreams and defer others. So many people said, "Career suicide." Sigh. But I wouldn't have embarked upon the writing without the time I had to daydream with my babies as we lay on the grass and watched the clouds, or as I nibbled on their toes and blew bubbles on their tummies. I love that you are a writer-mama as well. I often think about this quote by Katherine Paterson: "As I look back on what I have written, I can see that the very persons who have taken away my time are those who have given me something to say."

Rebecca, being brought up with Joy, has a greater sense of the value of all people, of all different abilities. Although she is surrounded by a culture that doesn't value Joy, Rebecca does. She learned this from her mother primarily, and her mother is the perfect example of love in action (I believe marriage and motherhood can bring out the best in us). But Rebecca is still so young—she has her own dreams and desires—so she has to discover for herself what it means to be true to yourself and to the people you love. I really, really chewed upon the tension of having to choose between two goods (needs of one vs. needs of many) as opposed to choosing between an obvious evil (ex. abuse) and a good (escape). I drew upon my own desires for Rebecca. Like Rebecca, all I wanted was a life in medicine (I wanted to be a doctor-nun) but when the time came, I was terrified to make the commitment because of the huge debt I'd be incurring. My mother had died months before and when the acceptance came, I declined. I tell you, fear is the stealer of dreams. We should never ever make decisions based on fear. But Rebecca is a better person than I will ever be and I love how she grew in the story, how she resolved her dilemma. 

I love what you said about fear... It's so true. If only all our decisions were motivated by love, and not fear...could you imagine how different the world would be?

That would be heaven!

I'd love to chat a bit about your writing process, before I accidentally give away too much of your story. ;) Can you spill some of the details? How did you research? How many drafts did you write? What's your approach to revisions?

BOUND is one of the few stories in which its entire arc came to me in a flash—a gift. The first draft was very clean. I already had all the important plot elements in place and given that the characters were vocal in my head, it was never a question about what to write but how quickly I could capture their words. I experimented in the second draft with voice and point of view. I fretted because the story came out in present tense, so I tried the traditional past tense, but I kept losing Rebecca's voice, so abandoned it. Voice is not something you want to mess with. If you have it, use it! I tried alternating chapters so that Joy could have equal share in the storytelling but limiting myself to Rebecca made the story more tense. Sometimes less is more. So I focused the second revision mainly on deepening the characters, sharing more of their interior life, staying true to their voices, and adding all the necessary details about burns and recovery and the challenges of raising children with special needs. The third revision was the nitty-gritty, focusing on word-choice, cutting, cutting, cutting everything unnecessary (like I should be in this tea-time chat). I sent it out to several readers, you amongst them. I incorporated all the suggestions that resonated. Then it was off to queryland!

However, despite many favorable comments, the book didn't get picked up by trade publishers so I put it aside to work on other stories. Five years later, here I am. You know the story:  

Reading is one of life's great pleasures so I can do as much as I want and call it "research" :) Joking aside, it was Patti Lee Gauch who said, “There can be no fiction without facts.” I wrote to my cousins at the very beginning, mostly to get their blessing, but also to glean anything they might want to share about burn recovery. My cousin who wasn't burned had several observations and I incorporated some of them into BOUND. But the details come from reading many books on burns, both memoirs and medical texts on their treatment. The Internet too, was a great source, especially for pictures, portions of textbooks/instruction manuals for working in war-zones (many soldiers are severely burned in the line of duty), abortion and adoption stories. The Internet is also very dangerous because you can convince yourself you are simply doing "research." By the way, Google Maps and streets views are wonderful to get a sense of the place you haven't been.

Oh, my girls and I have loved using Google Maps in our homeschooling! You can even "walk around" museums and "see" the artwork. 

Oh, how fun! I do like having the luxury of being an armchair traveler.

I know I could go on with this interview for ages, but in the interest of actually posting it at some point, I'll try to start wrapping up. I always like to ask artists to share the best bit of craft advice they've ever received. Would you like to finish up here by passing along some bit of good counsel you've received?

Yes, I’ve had at least five cups of tea already! I'd like to wrap up with this advice from Marcus Aurelius: "Begin--to begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this and thou wilt have finished." And I'd like to add a little bit of inspiration from one of my favorite writers, Amy Tan: "Writing is a gift to yourself and it's also a gift of giving a story to someone."

My dearest Faith, thank you for taking the time to chat with me. I've enjoyed it immensely. Let's do this again when *your* first novel is published! 

Vijaya, it was so much fun having this chat with you. I'll definitely take you up on your offer whenever my first book hits the press! Or whenever your next book does--whichever comes first. ;) Keep writing beautiful stories!

Everyone, you can get to know Vijaya better at her blog, and click here or on the image at the top of the post to buy her book on Amazon.


  1. I look forward to reading this, gets more exciting with each interview you give :)

    1. Thank you Vicki. I hope your library copy arrives soon.

  2. I enjoyed reading the book and I'm not much of a reader. That's funny considering Vijaya is my younger sister. So proud of you. The story and the characters hook you in and then you want to know more of how the story is going to unfolds. Faith, thank you for this wonderful interview. Enjoyed it a lot.

    1. Hehe. I'm always begging Suman to read this book or that post, so I am very, very happy Bound kept her attention. And thank you for reading this interview too.

    2. Yes, you've tried hard to make me a reader!! The interview was amazing. Gives the reader an insight on how Bound came to be. I would like some director to make a movie on this book.

    3. I wish! I should learn to write a screenplay. I've bought books on the topic because many stories unfold as full scenes in my head.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Vicki and Suman!

    1. Thanks for the interview. Means a lot to me to see Vijaya being recognized for her writing accomplishment. And I love your artwork on Bound. Beautiful!

  4. I'm sorry to anyone who's having trouble commenting! I'll look into the settings, but Blogger is often beyond me. :/ I really appreciate your stopping by and trying to leave a note!


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